It wasn’t actually boredom that had made Hélène give up on The Ferrymen of the Amazon. The scant chapter she’d once read, a dozen or so pages, had made her feel short of breath, stifling under some burden. The story began with a catastrophe: a twin-engine plane flying over the Amazon rainforest stalls and crashes into the trees. The pilot and two photographers are killed, Peter Ashley-Mill is the only survivor. Despite deep wounds to his arm and chest, he manages to find the strength, wielding an axe, to hack his way through the climbers and giant trees, not sure whether he will find any humans, nor how they will receive him. Starving, hunched and in pain, he battles on, sometimes resting his hand on the oozing wound close to his heart, under his torn shirt. When he is collapsing with hunger, he digs up roots. Even though the parrots taunt him, You’re going to die, Peter, you’re going to die, he holds on, determined to survive at all costs so he can report the tragic deaths of his companions. But, overcome by exhaustion, pain and fever, he loses consciousness. A huge anaconda eases down from a branch and slowly wraps itself around his body.
She didn’t get any further, but the story haunted her all through her teenage years, she still sometimes dreamed that she was fighting through a hostile jungle, plying her way through the tree trunks and climbers, digging into the ground to find roots, to no avail.